Childlike Sex Dolls: Safe Outlet or Encouragement for Paedophiles?

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Earlier this year, Shin Takagi opened up to The Atlantic about the struggles he has endured living as a paedophile who has never acted on his attraction to children. He uses his Japanese company Trottla to sell lifelike child sex dolls to other paedophiles in an effort to help them curb their impulses.

Mr Takagi says the dolls allow paedophiles to “express their desires, legally and ethically”, and that the feedback he receives from customers suggests the dolls have helped to prevent children becoming victims of sex crimes.

Lifelike child dolls being shipped to Australia

Mr Takagi has been shipping the anatomically correct dolls, resembling children aged as young as five, all over the world for the past 10 years. His dolls feature moveable joints and come with instructions about how to warm their soft plastic material in a hot bath. The Trottla website includes a disclaimer that reads “Please note, our products are not sexual toy dolls.”

When asked by VICE what he thought of people who accused him of being ‘sick’, Mr Takagi said:

“Some people have this view, but the doll is not a human being. Human rights do not belong to a doll—the victim does not exist anywhere. These people attack my company, but I do not need to justify myself. I expect many of these human beings either have mental problems. If you think our dolls are immoral, should we also remove all of the world’s nude sculptures, like the statue of David, just for reproducing genitalia?”

Mellissa Evans is an Australian woman who does not want to see the dolls sold here. She started an online petition targeting Trottla, seeking to prohibit the importation of child sex dolls to Australia. The grandmother says she “does not believe in any way that this is an appropriate deterrent against children being sexually abused” and has collected the signatures of almost 20,000 people who agree with her.

Differences in expert opinion

Paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder whereby an adult experiences ongoing sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Not all paedophiles are child abusers. Those who do not act on their sexual attraction towards children are sometimes called celibate or “virtuous” paedophiles. Celibate paedophiles are often very secretive and find it hard to obtain help because they fear the reaction from others.

There is debate amongst experts about the most effective methods to rehabilitate paedophiles and whether rehabilitation is even possible.

Michael Seto, a lecturer at the University of Toronto, says it is impossible to say whether child sex dolls could be a safer outlet for disturbing sexual urges, or prevent paedophiles from seeking out child pornography or sex with children.

“We don’t know, because the research hasn’t been done, but it would be a very important study to conduct,” he told The Atlantic.

University of Western Sydney social sciences lecturer Dr Maggie Hall told the ABC that her experience working with sex offenders suggests that having access to substitutes might only aggravate a sense of frustration.

“In my personal view, anything which represents children in a sexualised way, or makes it possible to imitate a sex act with a child, should be banned,” Dr Hall said.

Legal definition of child abuse material

In November 2014, a Sydney man was charged with owning child abuse material after the Australian Federal Police raided his home and found a lifelike doll resembling a 12-year-old girl which he had bought online.

The man’s lawyer told the Daily Telegraph that the legal definition of child abuse material should be updated to include inanimate objects.

The NSW Crimes Act 1900 refers to ‘child abuse material’ as material that depicts or describes a child in a way that a reasonable person would regard as being offensive, including where the person is apparently a victim of cruelty or sexual activity (whether or not other people are present). This definition also applies to material that appears to be a child.

“The government needs to make sure the law keeps up with what’s on the market,” the man’s lawyer said. “It is similar to when synthetic drugs were not captured under law. There were substances that had similar effects to LSD and ecstasy but were completely legal before the laws were changed.”

The government is yet to respond to those concerns.

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